Rattlers must go through red-hot Soul, former colleague on sideline in quest for ArenaBowl redemption.
By ASSOCIATED PRESSFS Arizona
NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- Doug Plank watched just about every Arizona Rattlers home game from the stands last year, while Kevin Guy watched in agony as his Rattlers lost the 2011 Arena Football League championship on the final play.
The two coaches will be on opposite benches Friday night in New Orleans, with Plank guiding the Philadelphia Soul against Guy's Rattlers in the AFL's 25th ArenaBowl.
Plank, a former Rattlers assistant coach and broadcaster, calls Arizona home in the offseason. He returned to the league with Philadelphia this season after serving as coach of the Georgia Force from 2005-08.
While Plank had been out of the league for three seasons, Guy is in his second straight title game with the Rattlers. But he will be looking for a different result this time. Arizona lost 73-70 to
Jacksonville last season when the Sharks scored as time expired.
"I felt like we had everybody on the same page," Guy said of the final play, a 10-yard touchdown pass from Aaron Garcia to Jeron Harvey. "We just didn't finish. Something we've talked about all season long (this year) is finishing."
The Rattlers finished the regular season 13-5 and entered the playoffs as the No. 2 seed in the National Conference. They won their playoff games against San Jose and Utah by a combined nine points.
"Our guys fought all year," Guy said. "We practice outside, in the heat. I think it makes us physically and mentally tougher. As the season went on, we developed some chemistry and started playing some pretty good football."
Philadelphia went a league-best 15-3 in the regular season. The Soul averaged 77.5 points in playoff wins over New Orleans and Jacksonville and have not lost since May 18 at Spokane.
"I haven't worked a day this year," Plank said. "Every day was fun."
Arizona quarterback Nick Davila, who threw eight touchdown passes in last year's ArenaBowl, passed for 5,500 yards and 113 touchdowns this season. Philadelphia's Dan Raudabaugh had 4,790 yards passing and 115 TD passes.
"I don't care what league you're in," Plank said. "It's about the quarterbacks. You don't know how helpless you are until you don't have a quarterback."
Rattlers receiver Maurice Purify has had a big postseason, racking up nine touchdown receptions in two games after catching 46 TD passes in the regular season. The Soul's leading receiver in the regular season, Tiger Jones, is in training camp with the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles, so Larry Brackins has picked up the slack in the playoffs with seven touchdown catches.
While Philadelphia led the AFL in scoring and rushing offense during the regular season, Arizona's defense ranked second in both categories.
"You don't know whether we're going to throw the ball or run the ball," Plank said.
Soul fullback Derrick Ross set a league record with 645 yards rushing and scored 32 touchdowns.
Defensively, Philadelphia's Kent Richardson shared the league lead with 14 interceptions. The Soul led the AFL in turnover margin at plus-23, while the Rattlers were fourth at plus-10.
Both franchises have titles to their credit. Philadelphia won the last ArenaBowl played in New Orleans in 2008, and Arizona is in the league title game for the seventh time, winning championships in 1994 and 1997.